Saturday, December 2, 2017

Book review: The Inevitable

What comes to your mind someone says ‘technologies of the future’? Think blockchain, driverless cars, Artificial Intelligence, 3-D printing, drones…. I recently happened to read “the Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly, a futurist and the Founding Editor of the Wired magazine. The sub-title of this book said “Understanding the 12 technological forces that will shape our future”. This is a review of the same. A more concise review has been put up on the Amazon website.

When I picked up this book, I was expecting a deep dive – or at least a comprehensive introduction to technologies (not specifically the ones mentioned above but whatever else) the esteemed author thinks will come to shape our future. However, that was not to be.

The book revolves around what I may loosely call for want of a better term, the ‘Internet–AI–Cloud–Analytics complex’ and various things that are being achieved combining these. The “12 trends” that the author talks about are different manifestations of using the same: 

1. Becoming – a process of constantly changing, evolving, improving

2. Cognifying – How AI is being injected into everything around us 

3. Flowing – Everything is information, copied multiple times and flowing seamlessly around the world over the internet 

4. Screening – More and more screens will enter our lives – from digital books to VR goggles to living room and building walls etc. 

5. Accessing – Access will become more important than possession or ownership 

6. Sharing – Open source software, social media collaboration, aggregator sites, crowd funding etc.

7. Filtering – Since there is an abundance of everything (information age), it will all need to be filtered 

8. Remixing – Mixing multiple elements of different media to create new things, findability, rewindability etc. 

9. Interacting – VR, and one step beyond it to Augmented Reality (AR) 

10. Tracking – From intelligent devices tracking our body to “lifestreaming”, “lifelogging” etc. End of privacy. 

11. Questioning – the most unlikely things will happen and we will need to constantly keep questioning 

12. Beginning – the changes which are on our way are so mindboggling that we are beginning anew

These one liners do not do full justice to the depth to which the author has gone, but I wanted to give a glimpse of what really the author means by technology “trends” and how they differ from technologies or specific technology developments. 

Indeed what the Google-Facebook-Netflix-Amazons of the world are doing is quite remarkable. But beyond a point, the 12 trends appear to be a regurgitation of the same underlying technological capability. The book keeps coming back to the same names again and again, at times making it difficult to distinguish one chapter from another. 

To be sure, there is nothing wrong in what the author has written, but this is not what I was expecting. On the whole, a bit of a disappointment.

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